I'll admit that I had never seen this older version of William Shakespeare's famed play; my only filmed familiarity was with the modernized 1996 adaptation that brought a visual flair and style to the big screen, with Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Daines taking to the big screen for the lead roles.
I think pretty much everyone knows the story of the two lovers, so I will go past the general story and comment on the film itself. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, the film is shot on location in Italy, and the beautiful locations add to the already fine performances, including Leonard Whiting as Romeo and Oliva Hussey as Juliet, who make for an excellent pairing. The production is quite lovely, with costumes and sets that are lavish and particularly rich for a film that was made many years ago. Watched back to back with the latest version would make for a very interesting comparison.
VIDEO: When a major studio brings out a DVD with excellent picture quality for a newer film, we can appreciate it and be pleased. When a studio takes a movie that it 20, 30 or more years old and gives new life to it, it's a cause for celebration. And although Paramount's new transfer for "Romeo and Juliet" has a few minor flaws here and there, the general quality is pretty stunning. Images are sharp and finely detailed, revealing a wealth of beautiful costumes and sets. Colors are warm and bright, showing no signs of bleeding nor fading after all of these years. Flesh tones are accurate and natural as well; this is an extremely smooth, clean looking image that pretty much caused my jaw to drop from the opening frames.
Yes, there are some little problems here and there; the image looks slightly grainy at times and there is the occasional touch of shimmering. What really impresses is the fact that the print seems to be in really good condition; I noticed a minor scratch/mark or two, but other than that, this is extremely clean. It's not going to look as outstanding and sharp as some newer films, but I think when you consider the age of this movie, Paramount has done a very fine job.
SOUND: The original mono soundtrack is included and although it is understandably limited (some voices do sound a bit thin when yelling), the general condition is most pleasing, with no background noise or hiss. Aside from the previous comment on dialogue, everything is pretty much as it should be.
MENUS:: An elegant, but non-animated main menu.
EXTRAS: Just the trailer.
Final Thoughts: Excellent audio and video quality make for a very nice presentation from Paramount. Recommended.
The Film A-
Video 91/A = (364/400 possible points)
Audio: 80/B- = (320/400 possible points)
Extras: 70/C = (210/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 81/B = (243/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: A-
DVD GRADE: B-